Whether Lady Gaga, appearing on our cover for the second time, is touring the globe with a groundbreaking extravaganza world tour or launching the most innovative perfume in two decades, she does it entirely on her own terms. As in: She said yes to Coty’s request on the condition that the company not only conjure scent notes to her specification but figure out how to create a liquid that appears black in the bottle, but when sprayed, becomes clear. (After all, she points out, “The fragrance is called Fame. It must be black. It must be enticing. You must want to lick and touch and feel it, but the look of it must terrify you.”) Also on her own terms: the Born This Way Ball, her massive spectacle, which has just made its way through Asia and Australia and is destined next for Europe and the States. She banned video screens, instead dreaming up a “fortress” that lets her dance 50 feet above an audience of 30,000. “I really wanted to break the mold of what modern touring is now,” Gaga explains.
This is Lady Gaga, after all, who manages to be both utterly out of this world and yet, strangely, simultaneously down-to-earth, as Jonathan Van Meter’s profile reveals. The 26-year-old star is as apt to head out on the town in Versace or McQueen as she is wearing an anonymous mystery gift left on her hotel doorstep with no note and no name—a dress made of hundreds of miniature mirrors sewn into origami-like boxes. In Gaga’s world, where borders blur (fantasy and reality, scary and cute), what was once risk-taking (the meat dress) becomes oddly charming (the reinvention of the meat dress is one of the highlights of the Born This Way Ball). “We were talking about putting the show together,” she recounts, “and I said, OK, what if I was someone’s grandma and I was going to a concert tonight. How would I know that it was a Gaga show? And we all just sort of looked at each other and said,‘The meat dress.’ ” That’s Mother Monster, mindful of the grandmas and the Goths alike, and regardless how large her fan base has swelled (the Queen of Twitter counts more than 28 million followers), she knows many of them by name. “I don’t really make records for people to listen to and go, ‘Wow, she’s a genius,’ ” says Gaga. “I’d really like you to order a drink, maybe kiss the person you came with that evening, or rediscover something about your past that makes you feel even more brave.”